Friday, November 30, 2007

Full circle

4 hours writing, 2 hours processing data, 1 hour reading, page count = 212

Continued working on the La Violencia chapter today. I was consulting a source, and realized that I had first obtained it in 1994 on my first research trip to Colombia as an undergrad. All this time later, and I'm still figuring out that seminal period in the country's history. Talk about coming full circle!

I'll continue posting through the weekend. Thanks to Julie Vogt for sticking with me as monitor through the homestretch!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


3 hours processing data, 3 hours writing, 1 hour reading, page count = 208

I continue to make good progress, but I'll need a couple of extra days to complete a full draft. Having informed my committee, I'm now aiming for this Sunday, December 2nd.

Today I worked on the chapter on La Violencia, incorporating data from my fieldwork in Antioquia. There's a lot of good stuff there, and it's flowing pretty easily to incorporate it into the text.

I also read a couple of pieces relating to Mexico in anticipation of working on the "in comparative perspective" chapter over the weekend. One of the sources made a strong argument that Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia all went broadly similar process of nation-state development starting in 1880 - conveniently the start of the critical juncture of security-force configuration that I identify in the dissertation. Handy! It sure is nice when new sources confirm your arguments.

Onward tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CC = two hundred

6.5 hours writing, 1 hour phone meeting, page count = 202

No time blog, must keep write.

Finished the chapter on the critical juncture (1880-1910). Woo-hoo! Feels good to get that one in place.

Had a good conversation with a Nicaraguan historian that Villager Marco Mojica put me in touch with. Nicaragua's a fascinating case for the "in comparative perspective" chapter, as its party cleavage neatly maps onto a geographic division; the role of international interference (from the U.S., mainly) is much larger; and the security forces were beyond politicized, they were personalized, turned in the '50s into the personal army of the dictator Somoza (well, one of them; it was a dynasty). It'll be fun to write that part of that chapter up.

As Villager Val Wang put it a couple of weeks ago, "WORD COUNT, BITCHES!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


1 hour writing, 6 hours processing data, page count = 194

Today I focused on digesting press for the critical-juncture chapter. I have a lot of good material from the 1890s that helps provide political context for the polcy choices that I study in greater detail. I made progress on that same chapter, and should be able to wrestle it to the ground tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pedal to the metal

7 hours writing/reading, page count = 193

Hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving. This week's monitor is Julie Vogt, in Madison. Julie is a fellow grad student, studying theater (I believe), at the University of Wisconsin. She got married at Burning Man, her dissertation is about the history of burlesque, and her email handle is "uberblonde." My mom still remembers her as the woman at our wedding with the vintage dress and matching gloves. Welcome, Julie!

Well, that's more like it. After a weekend of turkey (plus writing 3 pages), I put in some focused time on the critical-juncture chapter. While I'm not quite there yet with a complete draft, I added a lot of empirical material. Tomorrow, I'll plan to complete that chapter and make serious headway on the La Violencia chapter.

Short but sweet today: it's go time!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

100 years ago...

1 hour writing, 3 hours reading, 0.5 hours reading, page count = 183

Worked on the critical-juncture chapter, fleshing out the analysis of the period of army professionalization. In terms of reading, I focused primarily on that, reading a biography of Rafael Reyes, the president (1904-09) who was critical in professionalizing the army in the early 20th century.

It looks like Ana María has finished her work, and I'll be getting the last set of files shortly. Look forward to analyzing those.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Cathy Sumner. Up next is Julie Vogt, in Madison. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Someone call the Gendarmes

1 hour writing, 2 hours processing data, 1.5 hours reading, 1 hour phone meeting, page count = 181

Today I began processing the ministerial report data received from Ana María. It appears that in 1915 there was a reform incorporating the short-lived National Gendarmerie, a militarized police that had been created in 1906 and affiliated with the Ministry of Defense, into the National Police under the Ministry of Government. This is a relevant episode in that it shows an attempt to militarize the police that was relatively quickly suppressed, but in the scheme of things, it's not as important as the creation of the National Police itself and the professionalization of the army that happens during this period. In writing about this episode, I went back and forth about whether to incorporate it into the main text, but ultimately opted to put it in a footnote.

I was interested to see that by 1916, there was a pretty decent regional distribution of the National Police, and it appears to have happened quite quickly, as the first real stations outside of Bogotá appear to have been created in 1911. Even so, the overall number of agents stationed outside the capital remains quite small, so it's the state and local police that become more relevant during La Violencia.

In terms of reading, I did some background work on the 19th century chapter that was helpful in understanding the critical antecedents that shaped the configuration of security forces. It's a good sign that stuff I'm reading now is mostly confirming or fleshing out points I've already made, rather than bringing new ideas. At this stage, that's how it should be!

Had a great conversation with another Berkeley professor about the U.S. comparison. He had some very helpful suggestions as far as sources to consult, and they were different from the ones I got from another professor last week. The role of the Progressive Party in state building seems to be really key; it's interesting that no third party was really significant enough in Colombia to motivate that kind of reform, that it happened through the Conservatives.

I also did a fair bit of job-search work, including talking with a former colleague who had an interesting job referral, for which she was kind enough to submit my resume. Let's see what happens!

Monday, November 19, 2007

When politicization is a step up

2 hours writing, 1 hour phone meeting, 1 hour reading, 0.5 hours processing data, 0.5 hours administrivia, page count = 181

Focused today on the Nicaragua comparison case. Thanks to a referral from Villager Marco Mojica, I had a great conversation this morning with a Nicaraguan researcher who works on security and defense issues. He had a very helpful perspective on the history and evolution of the Nicaraguan security forces, and kindly offerred to make contacts with local historians who can help me understand better the timing and evolution of the security forces in the early part of the 20th century. Nicaragua is an interesting contrast case for at least two reasons: 1) rather than going from politicized to militarized, its security forces went from personalized to politicized -that is, under the Somoza dictatorship, they were an extension of the ruling family, rather than of the ruling party, a form of capture that would only emerge under the Sandinistas (wow, politicization a la Colombia as a step up); and 2) international factors had a decisive role, in this case the U.S.'s interest in, at first, possibly building a canal across Nicaragua instead of Panama, and once it chose Panama, in stopping anyone else from building a second canal in Nicaragua. This contrasts with the general indifference concerning Colombia in 19th-century world politics.

Ana María got me the second of her products, photos of ministerial reports from 1916-46. It took some logistical wrangling to find a way to transfer the photos efficiently, but we figured it out in the end. I took a quick look at the data, and eager to examine the photos more closely tomorrow.

In terms of reading, I did some background reading on Nicaragua and Central America, as well as consulted Daniel Pecaut's excellent Order and Violence, on Colombian politics 1930-53. He makes an interesting point that the parties were the only venue in which social differences could be expressed in Colombia, which makes for a peculiar and disjointed politics.

Friday, November 16, 2007


1.5 hours writing, 3 hours reading, 1 hour emailing, page count = 178

Continued reading today about the Colombia-Perú war of 1932-34. I got a little stuck, and figured I was too focused on one episode, so I switched over to a more macro view, and read in a history of the 20th century Colombian economy, edited by a former professor of mine. Lo and behold, he had a very clear statement about the tradeoff that policymakers choose between more guerrillas and more military coups. Nice to know I'm not crazy, and that these ideas are in circulation! That was a good validation that I'm on the right track.

In terms of writing, I continued incorporating Antioquia into the chapter on critical antecedents, and I reorganized the chapter on La Violencia according to the distinct bi-annual episodes that I identified in Medellín and gathered data on while there. I set up a couple more meetings, and worked with my cousin in Colombia to facilitate online transfer of all of the photos that Ana María took of ministerial reports from 1915-46. Not quite there yet, but we should have it figured out by Monday.

Thanks to my dad, Hugo Cardona, for being a great and diligent repeat monitor. Keeping it in the family, next up for the abbreviated Thanksgiving week is my darling wife, Catherine Sumner. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


1 hour writing, 4 hours reading, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 174

Today I focused on reading and writing about the 1932-34 border conflict between Colombia and Perú, which was an important moment in the development of the Colombian armed forces, and in the emergence of Colombian nationalism, such as it is. The apparent level of popular fervor over what amounted to a patch of godforsaken, uninhabited rainforest was remarkable. After 1830, when Ecuador and Venezuela broke off from what had been "La Gran Colombia" to form their own independent nations, Colombia had been pretty much left alone on the international scene, until 1903, when the U.S. supported the Panamanian independence "movement," and the Colombian state of Panamá became the independent nation of Panamá. I suppose it was the memory of that violation of sovereignty that was behind declarations like this about the Perú war (from a priest no less): "While there is a free Peruvian, peace in South America is a physical impossibility. With the blessing of God and the Queen of Colombia, the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, whose image is emblazoned in the folds of the glorious banner that flies now over Tarapacá [a settlement invaded by the Peruvians and retaken by Colombia], we will free ourselves of the dishonor of having given liberty to the sons of the Incas." Well, not much you can add to that....

I also set up some meetings, including one by phone with some Nicaraguan scholars - courtesy of my friend and Villager Marco Mojica - to advise me about the section on that country in the Colombia in comparative perspective chapter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What if the tool is no good?

1 hour writing, 1.5 hours reading, 1.5 hours meeting, 1 hour emailing, page count = 172

Continued working today on the Paraguay section of the Colombia in comparative perspective chapter. I focused on the "critical antecedents," the conditions that influenced the design of security forces. There are some interesting parallels, in that both countries were geographically and politically isolated during much of the 19th century, and that they've had relatively stable two-party systems, but ultimately, Paraguay's geography led to greater centralization, because the population was concentrated in a relatively small area, while Colombia's led to greater fragmentation because of the dispersion created by multiple mountain range's, and Paraguay's party system emerged a good 30 years after Colombia's, and most importantly, after the army had already emerged as a relevant social actor.

In terms of reading, I focused on other comparative police cases, looking at Guatemala and Mexico. Guatemala is interesting because at a certain point in the 19th century, the elite simply lost interest in them: they were so ineffective that they weren't even any use as a political instrument. This is an option I had not thought of; I assumed that elites would automatically want to use police as instruments for political ends, but in some cases, it may not even be worth it. In Mexico, the chapter I read was on corruption in the Mexico City police, which is just breathtaking. That's by far the most complex case, because not only is the country so much bigger, but there are upwards of 2,000 police forces. Like the U.S., policing is decentralized, so that each municipality has its own police force, and any federal forces are layered on top of those. In Colombia, by contrast, for over 100 years there's been this nominally national force that relates in complex ways to state and local police.

It was a very comparative day, as I had a great conversation with a Berkeley professor who studies American politics about parallels between the 19th-century development of the U.S. and Colombia. Both countries have early, strong party systems and the recurrence of the frontier, and in both, the level of de facto decentralization is high. We had a great discussion about the role of religion in politics, the evolution of frontier justice, and the relationships between the army and the police. Definitely inspiring. I also emailed with Ana María, and set up meetings with my committee members for my trip in December, and with other professors to whom I've been referred for next week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The simple reason

2 hours writing, 1 hour reading, 0.5 hours meeting, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 170

Today I focused on writing about the army in the 1950s, incorporating relevant information into different sections of the empirical chapter. This was a key period of transition for the Colombian army, as the experience of sending a batallion into Korea, the emergence of anti-Communist counter-insurgency doctrine - and of course, 4 years in government - profoundly impacted the professionalism and political bent of the institution.

In terms of reading, I gathered background information on Paraguay, one of the countries in the "Colombia in comparative perspective" chapter, and a paragon of a militarized society. During the 19th-century War of the Triple Alliance, in which Paraguay took on Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, Paraguay lost 90% of its male population. Reportedly an Argentine leader said afterwards, "The war ended for the simple reason that we killed all the Paraguayan men over 10 years old." And yet the society continued to be very militaristic. The contrast with Colombia could not be more stark, and will be interesting to explore.

Had a good phone conversation with another recent Berkeley grad who had helpful advice on managing the dissertation endgame. And I worked to set up specific meeting times with my committee for mid-December to get their feedback on a complete draft.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zeroing in

1.5 hours writing, 3 hours processing data, 1 hour emailing, page count = 167

Welcome once again to my dear old dad, Hugo Cardona, in Milwaukee, as this week's monitor. Thanks, Dad!

I finished processing the police service-records database, and wrote up a relevant section in the chapter on La Violencia. I'm getting to the point where my tasks are fewer in number but greater in intensity. I continue to get advice on managing the dissertation endgame, and to correspond with my research assistant, Ana María, in Bogotá, who's getting a lot done. I guess that's all there is to say today.

Here's to a good start to the week!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Embriaguez y escandalo

4 hours processing data, 0.5 hours meeting, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 164

I continued working with the database of police records that I received from Ana María yesterday. I finished coding all the variables. It looks like most of the records are either from before La Violencia or during La Violencia and before Rojas. I had hoped to have more records from after Rojas, i.e., during the military regime, but what I do have will give me a good picture of what the police forces were actually like in Antioquia before and during La Violencia. I think I'll go back and focus on what I have before and after the nationalization of the Antioquia police in 1949, to see what difference, if any, that reform made.

Gosh, these guys were really badly behaved. Out of the 180 records where a cause of leaving the institution is listed, 14% were for "drunkenness and scandal" and 31% were for lack of discipline or other bad conduct. Now I'll want to look to see if those numbers change at different times under different institutional configurations.

I had a great conversation with a former Berkeley grad student who advised me about the endgame of completing the dissertation; very sound and concrete advice that will help me bring this ship safely into the harbor.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Val Wang. Next up is a repeat performance from my dad, Hugo Cardona, in Milwaukee. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


1 hour writing, 1 hour reading, 2 hours processing data, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 166

In terms of writing, I incorporated some of the feedback from this week's meetings, adding another vignette to the introduction to introduce the period of institutional design, along with the period of conflict. I also decided to put a piece on Antioquia in the research design section of the methodology chapter - not so much to justify the choice of that particular state, but to explain what's distinctive about the state.

My reading focused on a similar theme, looking at some local histories of Antioquia, both political and economic. I'm going to pursue this vein for a little while, I think, as a way of starting to write up the empirical materials.

Speaking of which, Ana María got me the first of her three products, a completed database of Antioquia police records from the police museum. We took a sample of 106 (2 from each of the 53 folders) from the total universe of about 6000 records. I've started processing this data, developing coding schemes for the different variables and doing the actual coding. One of the more interesting details is that some, but not all, of the service records have a place to identify the color of the agent. There's a complicated set of labels for skin color in Colombia, including the very strange trigueño, or "wheat-colored." Don't ask me. I first observed these in the national beauty pageant, which is an obsession to a degree that we just can't understand in the U.S. (The pageant, which takes place this coming weekend in Cartagena, still uses those labels.) Anyway, most of the agents in our sample are either trigueño or moreno - much like our soldiers in Iraq, it's the dark-skinned boys who get to be cannon fodder. I'll continue to process this data over the next day or two, and begin incorporating it into the manuscript.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


2.5 hours writing, 1 hour reading, 1 hour emailing, page count = 147 (at 300 words/page), 164 (in final format)

Up until now, I've been calculating page count by taking the total number of words in the text (not counting footnotes or bibliography) and dividing by 300, on the assumption that a double-spaced page is about 300 words. Turns out that when I format the manuscript according to Berkeley guidelines (1.5" left margin, 1" right, top, and bottom margins, 12-point font, double-spaced), the average page is more like 270-275 words. Starting today, I'll switch over to counting actual pages in the manuscript, which is now formatted according to Berkeley guidelines. I figure I'll still need to add about 60 pages to have a complete draft by November 30th, bringing the total, in the final format, to around 215-220.

In terms of writing, I focused on three things: updating references to current writings on 19th-century civil wars in Colombia, of which there's been a bumper crop in the past five years; drafting a few ideas for the conclusion; and threading a story about Antioquia through Chapter 3 on critical antecedents.

For this last task, I read some about Antioquian economic development in historical context. By 1936, for example, the state was producing 46 percent of the country's coffee, at a time when overall coffee production had skyrocketed. I'll need to say something about mining and manufacturing, both of which were economic drivers in the period leading up to La Violencia.

In terms of reading, I also worked on the 1950s, and learned about the role of the U.S. army in the development of the Colombian army during that period, before, during, and after the military dictatorship. Colombia was the only Latin American country to send troops for the Korean War, and the experience was apparently an important one for further developing army professionalism.

I did a bunch of follow-up emails from my trip. I'm also logging an hour or two each day, not counted here, in my job search and volunteer project. The red-eye and jet lag did a number on my sleep patterns today, but by the weekend I should be back to normal. In the meantime, as my monitor and fellow writer Val put it in her comment yesterday, "WORD COUNT, BITCHES!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

In transit

4.5 hours meeting, 0.5 hours bureaucrarate, 0.5 hours emailing, 0.5 hours processing feedback, page count = 143

Greetings from the Phoenix airport. I'm in the midst of a layover on my way back home to New York. I managed to schedule five meetings back-to-back today, so I guess you could say extending my trip by a day yielded some results. I met with two of my advisors and got very helpful feedback, and then with three fellow graduate students who work on Colombia or one of my comparison countries (Nicaragua). Given that the "Colombia in comparative perspective" chapter is the one that needs the most work, that last conversation was particularly timely and illuminating.

A common theme in the conversations was the complexity of politicization of the police, and its continuing relevance today. It's important that I distinguish "politicization," which I define specifically as control of hiring, firing, and payment by politicians, from "capture," which can be control by politicians or soldiers. Indeed, what I'm saying is that those two types of capture, while similar in being cases of capture, are in fact very different in their implications for regime stability down the line.

Another element that came up in the comments over the past two days was timing. At the time that it made sense for policy-makers to design security forces, police professionalism wasn't as far advanced as military professionalism, so that designing autonomous police institutions wasn't as feasible. I'm not crazy about that part of the argument hinging on timing, but I've learned over the years that timing can be a powerful explanations for historical patterns of development in different parts of the world. It matters tremendously for Latin America that it was Portugal and Spain and not England that were first to colonize; the English took the leftovers, but they took them to settle rather than extract gold from, so the institutions they built were generally less exploitative than mining and plantation economies in Latin America.

One especially provocative comment I got had to do with horizontal vs. verical escalation of conflict. I've been assuming that local actors see potential for alliances with defecting security forces in terms of local, then state, then national, i.e., different levels of a vertical hierarchy. But what about about neighboring localities? That's horizontal alliance-building, and I'll definitely need to give it more thought as I examine the Antioquia case materials.

I'm aiming to round out the empirical and comparative chapters and have a complete draft to my committee by November 30. Whew! Here's to a productive next few weeks. It's almost time for my flight to board, so I'll sign off now. Hasta mañana!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Preeee-sen-ta-tion time, come on!

0.5 hours presenting, 4 hours presentation prep, 2.5 hours seminar, 1 hour seminar prep, 1 hour meeting, page count = 143

This week's monitor is Val Wang, in Princeton. Val is a writer. She is currently participating in her second National Novel Writing Month ( Welcome, Val!

Today's stats include 3 hours of work I did over the weekend, in preparation for my presentation at my department's Latin America research seminar this evening. The presentation went well; I had good materials, and they generated a fair amount of discussion. I might have focused my presentation a little differently to get more feedback, as we got a little hung up on some of the newer material, but it was helpful to see how the new stuff played. And it became ever more clear that policing and security are very timely topics in Latin America, as a number of colleagues who work in Brazil had stories to share about the relationships between army and police there. Afterwards, I met with one of my advisors, and we had a constructive conversation.

I've extended my trip by a day to be able to meet with two other of my committee members tomorrow. So, one more day of working from the West Coast, and it's back home to New York.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Desde la otra costa

4 hours writing, page count = 143

Greetings from an Internet cafe in North Berkeley. I arrived this morning somewhat bleary-eyed from the early flight, but energized by the beautiful sunny day I encountered. Between the plane and BART ride, I managed to put in a good solid few hours writing. I foucsed on tightening up the chapters that are in good shape, and on identifying additional areas in the chapters-in-progress where more information is needed. I also began incorporating the different pieces required - table of contents, references, bibliography - into one document, according to the filing guidelines. I have to say, it looks pretty cool assembled like that!

After lunch with my sister-in-law and coffee with my former boss, I'm headed into the city to meet friends and go to the Day of the Dead parade.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Michael Negrón. Next up is Val Wang, in Princeton. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


2 hours writing, 1 hour emailing, 1 hour travel prep, page count = 143

A lighter day in terms of dissertation work, as I focused on a volunteer project and my job search. Finding the balance between the sustained effort I'll need to complete the dissertation and the periodic but consistent effort I'll need to conduct a successful job search will definitely be a challenge in the coming weeks. I had a great meeting with a colleague with whom I'm working on a volunteer project, and she was kind enough to offer a referral to an interesting job opportunity, so that was productive.

In terms of writing, I've found myself having a hard time this week engaging with the mountain of material I brought back from the field, so I decided to take a different tack, and re-engaged with the earlier chapters of the manuscript, in an effort to get them up to speed in advance of my presentation. I'm happy to report that I now have decent first or second drafts of the introduction and the first three chapters. I think what will be most helpful for my presentation on Monday will be to share some of the basic insights gleaned from the new fieldwork and to get advice on how to incorporate them into the overall narrative. That should set me up well for the writing process over the next four weeks, when I intend to complete drafts of the remaining three chapters and the conclusion.

Ana María, my research assistant in Bogotá, reports that the work is going well in terms of constructing the database of Medellín police service records from the 1940s. Interestingly, she's not seeing a lot of transfers, and yet one of the other databases I'm constructing, as I mentioned earlier this week, is about comisiones de orden público, in which police and soldiers are assigned to certain municipalities. Ana María verified that transfers are distinct from comisiones, and perhaps the latter just aren't noted on their service records; we'll see.

Tomorrow morning I'm headed off to San Francisco, so my next posting will be from the West Coast. Looking forward to a good trip!